On Tuesday 12th December, the weekend’s snow was not stopping Olympic Swimmer and Mintridge Ambassador, Lizzie Simmonds from getting to Ruskin Academy in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, no matter how hard it tried!

Lizzie arrived at Ruskin to deliver an action packed Mintridge Bronze Programme which started with a school assembly in the hall. Lizzie shared her sporting journey with the students including highlights such as competing at the London 2012 Olympics, as well as conveying important messages throughout the session on subjects such as:

  • Dealing with nerves and worries.
  • The perception of failure: AS LONG AS YOU HAVE DONE YOUR BEST TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL, YOU CANNOT ‘FAIL’.
  • Being Safe Around Water.
  • Respect for Opponents.

Lizzie’s fact of the day which wowed the crowd was:

“I’ve swum 2.2 million metres a year for the past 14 years!”

The Ruskin students impressed Lizzie with their questions at the end which included:

  • What is your favourite thing about sport?
  • How fast can you swim 25m?
  • How did you get into swimming?

The remaining part of the morning was spent in the classroom with three different sessions:

The Importance of Physical Activity was the topic of choice for the year 3’s and 4’s which allowed the Ruskin children to look at why they should take part in sport and activity and the different ways that it can be achieved from walking the dog to competing for a team. Lizzie stressed the importance of fun being at the forefront of whatever you choose and that it is ok to not like sport.

The session drew to a close with the students being able to look at Lizzie’s medals, photo opportunities and some highly sought after autograph cards from Lizzie for everyone!

Women in Sport is a very important topic for both Lizzie and Mintridge and therefore the year 5 & 6 girls worked closely with Olympian Lizzie to look at the various reasons behind the gender gap in sport. The Ruskin girls were fully engaged with the session and came up with some of the reasons that they believe girls their age avoid sport from injuries to gender stereotyping. Lizzie urged the girls to look up to female role models like hers (Becky Adlington and Kate Richardson – Walsh) to follow their example and what they stand for in sport. There were some fantastic questions again at the end including; “Have you achieved everything that you wanted to achieve?” before medals, photos and autograph time! It is safe to say that the year 5 Ruskin girls are an excitable bunch which was great for Lizzie to see.

Goal Setting was the focus for the year 5 & 6 boys in the session before lunch. Lizzie looked at areas that the class wished to focus on, sporting or otherwise. Lizzie looked at long term goals and the short term targets that the boys were going to focus on to get there. This ranged from careers in accountancy through to footballing endeavours. At the end of the session, one boy said the following which is exactly what Lizzie wanted to hear as to why we create goals:

“If you don’t achieve something once, you can try again.”

After lunch the year 5’s headed to Waendel Leisure centre to see Lizzie in action before diving in to the pool themselves. Lizzie gave some fantastic demonstrations across all strokes with the swimming coaches breaking down the various elements to the students.

Each student was given the opportunity in their small groups to work closely with the Commonwealth medallist, which gave so many such a boost in confidence. Steve Jackson, the Schools Swimming Manager for Northamptonshire Sport who was leading the session commented, “The progress children make when they get the chance to work with champions is amazing” which was echoed by the development of some of the students in such a short space of time. Some were even able to race Lizzie before returning back to school for the day. We will let the children share the results!

Before everyone left, Lizzie had one more surprise for everyone, and that was a signed photograph of her competing for them to take home. What a wonderful gift to treasure for years to come!

Thank you very much to Mr Kingsnorth and the Ruskin staff for welcoming us back for another really enjoyable programme with you.

If you would like to see the video from the day, please visit our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxdhWuur4rc&feature=youtu.be

We look forward to hearing about the progress of all the students that Lizzie was able to work with. Please follow Lizzie’s progress at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April online. Mintridge will also be sharing her results.